What is your current activity level?
🧍‍♂️Sedentary
🚶 Moderately active
🏃 Very active
This will help us personalize your experience
Blog
>

Can a Nutritionist Help With Constipation?

Published on
Updated on
Can a Nutritionist Help With Constipation?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Constipation is the decreased frequency of bowel movements and is defined as passing fewer than three stools per week.  
  • A registered dietitian nutritionist can help with constipation if the root cause is related to diet and lifestyle.  
  • Prioritizing the increase of fiber, fluid, and physical activity are all essential for healthy bowel movements. 

There may have been times when you felt backed up or constipated for a few days. It can occur when your diet changes, if you are traveling, or if you have started a new medication. However, if you can’t pass a bowel movement for an extended period, there may be other contributing factors that should be addressed so you can find relief. 

Working with a healthcare professional to assess your bowel health thoroughly is essential, and making dietary changes under the guidance of a registered dietitian nutritionist may help with constipation. In this article, you’ll learn why adding fiber, fluid, and physical activity are essential to improving constipation

{{splash}}

What is Constipation?

Constipation is a decrease in bowel movements, categorized as having fewer than three per week. Primary or secondary factors can cause constipation, and knowing which type you have is important for increasing bowel movement frequency.  

  • Primary constipation is caused by a combination of internal factors, such as slow transit time for the stool to move through the intestines and digestive tract. This can be caused by a diet that is low in fiber, inadequate fluid intake, and low levels of physical activity. 
  • Secondary constipation can be caused by mild dehydration, medications, chronic disease, or physical abnormalities in the digestive tract. 

Primary constipation can be treated by dietary and lifestyle changes and laxatives until constipation improves. Secondary constipation treatment may start with laxatives, followed by a consultation with a gastroenterologist if the laxatives are not effective.   

{{local}}

Understanding Constipation's Effect on the Body

Being constipated is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. You may experience tightness in your lower abdomen or cramping. These are signs that a professional should assess you because the stool may have hardened (fecal impaction), which may require additional treatment.

Straining while trying to go to the bathroom can increase your risk of hemorrhoids, which are painful swollen vessels around the anus and lower rectum. The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to avoid pushing and prolonged periods of straining while on the toilet. Your doctor may recommend taking a stool softener to help make going to the bathroom easier. 

Can a Nutritionist Help With Constipation?

A dietitian nutritionist can make nutrition recommendations to relieve primary constipation. The key focus areas will be assessing your current fiber intake and likely increasing your intake to an approximate range of 25-30g daily

Fiber is a crucial focus for digestive health because it adds bulk to your stool, which makes it easier to pass. It also helps you feel satisfied after eating, improves blood sugar control and cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of certain cancers. 

There are endless ways to include more fiber in your diet. Some examples of foods that are rich in fiber include: 

  • Whole grains - quinoa, whole grain bread, oats, millet, barley. 
  • Legumes - chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, black beans. 
  • Fruits - berries, pears, apples, oranges, cherries.  
  • Vegetables - broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, cauliflower, tomatoes, avocado, etc. 
  • Nuts - walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans. 
  • Seeds - sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax.

While constipated, you will also need to increase your fluid intake. Ideally, you should choose water most often, but your total fluid intake can also come from teas, coffees, and wet foods such as soups and yogurt. Aiming for 6-8 cups of total fluid daily is recommended for most people. 

Benefits of Working with a Nutritionist for Constipation

Working with a dietitian nutritionist can be helpful because you will receive health advice that is uniquely tailored to fit your needs. 

A dietitian can take a holistic approach to your health, offer suggestions to improve your constipation and provide general nutrition education. There is also an opportunity to learn about the link between mental and gut health and why exercise and stress management are vital to improving digestive health. 

Ways a Nutritionist Can Help With Constipation

It can be difficult to hit daily fiber goals without proper planning. A dietitian nutritionist can work with you to create a meal plan that helps you satisfy your nutrient requirements and tastes delicious. You can spread fiber-rich foods throughout the day to help make it easier to hit your target (fiber is very filling!) 

Here is an example of a full day with 30g of fiber. Each meal offers approximately 10g of fiber:

  • Breakfast - ¾ cup of bran flakes with milk, ¼ cup of chopped almonds, and a handful of mixed berries. 
  • Lunch - ½ cup of brown rice, ½ diced avocado, one diced tomato, ¼ cup of diced red onion, fresh cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, a sprinkling of feta cheese, and sliced chicken breast. 
  • Dinner - Baked salmon filet with ½ cup seasoned roasted sweet potato (skin on), large salad with kale, shredded Brussels sprouts, freshly grated parmesan, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and an olive oil balsamic dressing. 

You can also add snacks throughout the day if you feel hungry. This list is one example of meals to inspire you to eat more fiber. 

Other Strategies for Treating and Preventing Constipation

You can take different lifestyle approaches to help prevent constipation. 

  • Engaging in regular physical activity. Movement helps to keep food passing through the bowels naturally and can stimulate regular bowel movements. Try to include a brief 10-minute walk after each meal to keep things moving. 
  • Consider taking probiotics. Taking the correct strain of probiotics is important to prevent constipation; a dietitian can help you identify the best option. 
  • Take laxatives if necessary. Your medical team can assess if laxatives are an appropriate option. A pharmacist can review the correct dosage and recommend the best time of day to take it. 
  • Manage stress and mental health. Your gut and brain constantly communicate, and poorly managed stress can negatively affect your bowel health. Meditation, movement, and spending time in nature are all effective methods for lowering stress.  
  • Review your medications for possible side effects. Changes in bowel habits are common when starting a new medication. Ask your pharmacist to review possible side effects if you take any prescriptions. Your doctor may offer alternate options. 
  • Review supplements. Some supplements, such as iron, can cause constipation. Your dietitian can offer suggestions on how to manage these side effects. 

Takeaway

Being constipated is uncomfortable, and finding ways to find relief is possible. To decrease the chances of a recurrence, ensure you are eating enough fiber in your diet to stay regular. Most adults should consume approximately 25-30g daily. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes. 

Whenever you add more fiber to your diet, you should also increase your fluid intake to help the fiber pass easily through your intestinal tract. This additional fluid will keep the stools soft, making going to the bathroom easier. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

A gut health dietitian can help you make nutrition changes to help with constipation. Together you can create a robust approach to eating that will support regular bowel movements and help you feel more comfortable. 

{{splash}}

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a dietitian help with chronic constipation?

A dietitian can help with chronic constipation if the root cause is related to diet and lifestyle. 

Is constipation a nutrient deficiency?

Constipation is unlikely to be caused by a nutrient deficiency. A low-fiber diet, inadequate fluid intake, medications, or other factors such as anatomical barriers most often cause it. 

What doctors specialize in constipation?

A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in all disorders related to the gut, including constipation.

References

View all references
Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish

  • Covered by insurance
  • Virtual sessions
  • Personalized care
Schedule an appointment

Frequently asked questions

No items found.

Find a virtual dietitian in {State}

Find a dietitian near you

Covered by insurance.
Question 1

Are you more thirsty than usual?

Question 1

Are you urinating more than usual?

Question 1

Is your blood sugar level consistently high?

Question 1

Do you experience extreme hunger or fatigue?

Question 1

Do you have blurry vision or numbness and tingling in your hands and feet?

Question 1

Do you experience frequent infections or slow-healing wounds?

Question 1

Do you have a family history of diabetes?

Your Result

Your results are in!

While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Your Result

Your results are in!

You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Charleston
SC
South Carolina
32.7884363, -79.9399309
Paterson
NJ
New Jersey
40.916611, -74.172188
Palmdale
CA
California
34.576469, -118.116096
Lancaster
CA
California
34.697472, -118.144524
Murfreesboro
TN
Tennessee
35.845619, -86.390266
Santa Rosa
CA
California
38.547134, -122.816383
Eugene
OR
Oregon
44.052151, -123.091187
Shreveport
LA
Louisiana
32.523659, -93.763504
Clarksville
TN
Tennessee
36.527279, -87.360336
Cary
NC
North Carolina
35.7882893, -78.7812081
Salem
OR
Oregon
44.944099, -123.040283
Newport News
VA
Virginia
37.087082, -76.473015
Chattanooga
TN
Tennessee
35.0457219, -85.3094883
Akron
OH
Ohio
41.0842496, -81.6777863
Providence
RI
Rhode Island
41.823990, -71.412834
Tallahassee
FL
Florida
30.438255, -84.280731
Peoria
AZ
Arizona
33.7528919, -112.4902079
Sioux Falls
SD
South Dakota
43.536388, -96.731667
Yonkers
NY
New York
40.930790, -73.898293
Fayetteville
NC
North Carolina
35.052666, -78.878357
Rochester
NY
New York
43.156578, -77.608849
McKinney
TX
Texas
33.214561, -96.614456
Moreno Valley
CA
California
33.920891, -117.261162
Fremont
CA
California
37.548271, -121.988571
Frisco
TX
Texas
33.150673, -96.823608
Spokane
WA
Washington
47.658779, -117.426048
Boise
ID
Idaho
43.6008183, -116.2421086
Port St. Lucie
FL
Florida
27.273270, -80.342148
Irving
TX
Texas
32.814018, -96.948891
Winston-Salem
NC
North Carolina
36.096260, -80.243736
St. Petersburg
FL
Florida
27.773056, -82.639999
Laredo
TX
Texas
27.507130, -99.507500
Jersey City
NJ
New Jersey
,
Buffalo
NY
New York
42.8867166, -78.8783922
St. Louis
MO
Missouri
38.627003, -90.199402
Chandler
AZ
Arizona
33.3062031, -111.841185
Durham
NC
North Carolina
35.994034, -78.898621
Lincoln
NE
Nebraska
40.806862, -96.681679
Pittsburgh
PA
Pennsylvania
40.440624, -79.995888
Greensboro
NC
North Carolina
36.072701, -79.793900
St. Paul
MN
Minnesota
44.954445, -93.091301
Newark
NJ
New Jersey
40.735657, -74.172363
Lexington
KY
Kentucky
38.040585, -84.503716
Stockton
CA
California
37.957703, -121.290779
Honolulu
HI
Hawaii
21.306944, -157.858337
Cleveland
OH
Ohio
41.499321, -81.694359
Arlington
TX
Texas
32.7355816, -97.1071186
Oakland
CA
California
37.804363, -122.271111
Long Beach
CA
California
33.770050, -118.193741
Raleigh
NC
North Carolina
35.779591, -78.638176
Omaha
NE
Nebraska
41.256538, -95.934502
Colorado Springs
CO
Colorado
38.833881, -104.821365
Fresno
CA
California
36.737797, -119.787125
Albuquerque
NM
New Mexico
35.084385, -106.650421
Memphis
TN
Tennessee
35.117500, -89.971107
Washington DC
WA DC
Washington, DC
38.889805, -77.009056
Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.169941, -115.139832
Seattle
WA
Washington
47.606209, -122.332069
Charlotte
NC
North Carolina
35.2272086, -80.8430827
Sacramento
CA
California
38.590576, -121.489906
Richmond
VA
Virginia
37.540726, -77.436050
Surprise
AZ
Arizona
33.629002, -112.330170
Mesa
AZ
Arizona
33.415184, -111.831474
Louisville
KY
Kentucky
38.252666, -85.758453
Des Moines
IA
Iowa
41.586834, -93.624962
Lakewood
CO
Colorado
39.704708, -105.081375
Kansas City
KS
Kansas
39.112701, -94.626801
Reno
NV
Nevada
39.529633, -119.813805
Tacoma
WA
Washington
47.258728, -122.465973
Aurora
CO
Colorado
39.7405111, -104.830994
Oxnard
CA
California
34.197659, -119.175949
Amarillo
TX
Texas
35.221996, -101.831299
Henderson
NV
Nevada
36.039524, -114.981720
Vancouver
WA
Washington
45.633331, -122.599998
Gilbert
AZ
Arizona
33.352825, -111.789024
San Bernardino
CA
California
34.115784, -117.302399
Columbus
GA
Georgia
27.800583, -97.396378
Hayward
CA
California
37.668819, -122.080795
Milwaukee
WI
Wisconsin
43.038902, -87.906471
Lubbock
TX
Texas
33.576698, -101.855072
Norfolk
VA
Virginia
36.850769, -76.285873
Tulsa
OK
Oklahoma
36.153980, -95.992775
Garland
TX
Texas
32.914341, -96.636559
Fort Lauderdale
FL
Florida
26.124161, -80.143593
Tucson
AZ
Arizona
32.248814, -110.987419
Salt Lake City
UT
Utah
40.760780, -111.891045
Corona
CA
California
33.875670, -117.568840
Madison
WI
Wisconsin
43.073051, -89.401230
Huntsville
AL
Alabama
34.7014286, -86.6597495
Kansas City
MO
Missouri
39.099728, -94.578568
Irvine
CA
California
33.684566, -117.826508
Chula Vista
CA
California
32.640072, -117.084038
Denton
TX
Texas
33.215530, -97.132446
Aurora
IL
Illinois
41.7571701, -88.3147539
Baton Rouge
LA
Louisiana
30.4494155, -91.1869659
Columbus
OH
Ohio
39.961178, -82.998795
Baltimore
MD
Maryland
39.2908816, -76.610759
Detroit
MI
Michigan
42.331429, -83.045753
Chesapeake
VA
Virginia
36.7183708, -76.2466798
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Birmingham
AL
Alabama
33.5206824, -86.8024326
Scottsdale
AZ
Arizona
33.501324, -111.925278
Cincinnati
OH
Ohio
39.103700, -84.513610
North Las Vegas
NV
Nevada
36.201946, -115.120216
Riverside
CA
California
33.980602, -117.375496
Plano
TX
Texas
33.019844, -96.698883
Minneapolis
MN
Minnesota
44.977753, -93.265015
Salinas
CA
California
,
Anaheim
CA
California
33.836594, -117.914299
Springfield
MO
Missouri
37.208958, -93.292297
Fort Wayne
IN
Indiana
41.077469, -85.137489
Phoenix
AZ
Arizona
33.448376, -112.074036
Bakersfield
CA
California
35.3738712, -119.0194639
Garden Grove
CA
California
33.774269, -117.937996
Anchorage
AK
Alaska
61.2163129, -149.894852
Indianapolis
IN
Indiana
39.768402, -86.158066
Nashville
TN
Tennessee
36.162663, -86.781601
Tempe
AZ
Arizona
33.425522, -111.941254
Mobile
AL
Alabama
30.695366, -88.039894
New Orleans
LA
Louisiana
29.951065, -90.071533
Knoxville
TN
Tennessee
35.960636, -83.920738
Grand Rapids
MI
Michigan
42.963360, -85.668083
Fontana
CA
California
34.102890, -117.435760
Elk Grove
CA
California
38.418129, -121.393257
Cape Coral
FL
Florida
26.5625742, -81.9438802
Grand Prairie
TX
Texas
32.745499, -97.003532
Fort Collins
CO
Colorado
40.588970, -105.082458
Killeen
TX
Texas
31.117119, -97.727798
Modesto
CA
California
37.639095, -120.996880
Oklahoma City
OK
Oklahoma
35.468491, -97.521263
Santa Ana
CA
California
33.745571, -117.867836
Ontario
CA
California
34.063343, -117.650887
Brownsville
TX
Texas
25.9015688, -97.4984005
Montgomery
AL
Alabama
32.379223, -86.307739
Hialeah
FL
Florida
25.857595, -80.278107
Springfield
MA
Massachusetts
42.102051, -72.585762
Toledo
OH
Ohio
41.652805, -83.537865
Pembroke Pines
FL
Florida
26.007765, -80.296257
Overland Park
KS
Kansas
38.974819, -94.683601
Little Rock
AR
Arkansas
34.746483, -92.289597
Glendale
CA
California
34.142509, -118.255074
Roseville
CA
California
38.752125, -121.288010
Wichita
KS
Kansas
37.687176, -97.330055
Huntington Beach
CA
California
33.659485, -117.998802
Augusta
GA
Georgia
33.4709714, -81.9748429
Worcester
MA
Massachusetts
42.271389, -71.798889
Virginia Beach
VA
Virginia
36.852924, -75.977982
Oceanside
CA
California
33.1958696, -117.3794834
Santa Clarita
CA
California
34.456043, -118.571335
Philadelphia
PA
Pennsylvania
39.952583, -75.165222
Corpus Christi
TX
Texas
27.800583, -97.396378
Portland
OR
Oregon
45.512230, -122.658722
Denver
CO
Colorado
39.739235, -104.990250
Boston
MA
Massachusetts
42.3554334, -71.060511
Atlanta
GA
Georgia
33.7489924, -84.3902644
Chicago
IL
Illinois
41.8755616, -87.6244212
Orlando
FL
Florida
28.538336, -81.379234
Jacksonville
FL
Florida
30.332184, -81.655647
Tampa
FL
Florida
27.950575, -82.457176
Long Island
NY
New York
40.757801, -73.940033
Queens
NY
New York
40.728226, -73.794853
Bronx
NY
New York
40.8466508, -73.8785937
Staten Island
NY
New York
40.643501, -74.076202
Brooklyn
NY
New York
40.6526006, -73.9497211
New York
NY
New York
40.712776, -74.005974
San Jose
CA
California
37.342205, -121.851990
San Francisco
CA
California
37.774929, -122.419418
San Diego
CA
California
32.834686, -117.130775
Los Angeles
CA
California
34.052235, -118.243683
El Paso
TX
Texas
31.761877, -106.485023
San Antonio
TX
Texas
29.387428, -98.496574
Dallas
TX
Texas
32.776665, -96.796989
Fort Worth
TX
Texas
32.755489, -97.330765
Houston
TX
Texas
29.760427, -95.369804
Austin
TX
Texas
30.2711286, -97.7436995

Book an appointment with a {category} dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Book an appointment with an online dietitian

Covered by insurance.

Find a

dietitian covered by insurance

No items found.
Mental Health
Intuitive Eating
Hyperthyroidism